One of the best, the pinnacle and hallmark of Manga is the Dragon Ball series. For TV (and us American audiences), the series was split into two halfs, first Dragon Ball, and then Dragon Ball Z. Created by Akira Toriyama, it seemed like he created the definition of modern-day fighting Manga - as his techniques and storytelling ideas can be seen emulated by any number of Anime and Manga series today.
Coming off of his popular humor series, Dr Slump, Dragon Ball began as a loose retelling of Journey to the West. The stories where more simple, and more humor based -- but had definite charm and appeal, as Son Goku and a spunky girl named Bulma went on a search for the legendary Dragon Balls. If all seven of the ball are collected, they can be used to summon Shenron -- a mighty dragon who will grant you a single wish. Friends and former foes are gathered together along for this journey, with humorous highjinks throughout. Goku eventually lost his notable monkey tail, because it was discovered that during a full moon, he will turn into a gigantic and destructive ape; simple solution is to cut it off! Eventually a wish is made, and the Dragon Balls scatter again to the ends of the Earth - dormant for another year, before they can be collected once again.
Goku trained under the Turtle Hermit, Roshi - where the basic idea of adding weight, or psychical resistance, to a training regimen can make you stronger. I really like this idea, as its simple and cute - and has some merit in real life; though it strains credibility the more and more powerful Goku becomes.
Goku's training partner, the short and bald Kuririn (Krillin in the Anime), starts out as a rival to Goku, but soon enough becomes a life long friend.
My favorite moments in the series are when Tournament time comes around -- and we get to see the fruition of all the training of the characters. Goku doesn't actually win these tournaments at first -- as there are always interesting and challenging opponents and wrinkles added to the mix.
The series progressively became more and more action oriented, with running themes and sagas beginning to structure the series. The introduction of King Piccolo - the Demon King - was particularly note-worthy, as Son Goku fought to save the world from a fierce and unstoppable enemy.
I love the introduction, later, of Kami (or God), who Goku is shocked to learn is a duel image of Piccolo! (They where once a single being, but separated when Kami wished to purge himself of all evil)
What I suspect must have been even more shocking, was the reveal of the next tournament match, when Goku returned from training -- yet had grown into a tall young man!! Akira Toriyama apparently did this to help make it easier to depict martial arts with a full grown body. At the time, it was quite controversial to change a lead character of a manga like that. (Though it has since been repeated in modern Manga, like in Naruto)
Also entering the tournament was Piccolo Jr -- a spawned offspring of the Demon King. Essentially he's a reincarnation - he's different from King Piccolo, but his desire to defeat Goku is strong, alive and well.
The tournament also featured the return of a briefly seen character from ages ago, Chi-Chi, who had returned to find Goku, and get married together. (Goku had made such a promise when they where both little kids, especially when Goku didn't know what was going on)
The series is really fantastic, light and fun! Everyone should check it out if they can. I'll come back next time to talk about Dragon Ball Z!